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Polyamory is more than just an excellent drag
name. It's the state of being openly in love
with more than one person, or having more than
one love relationship simultaneously. Kind of
like polygamy without the marriage part.
Thanks to HBO's new series
"Big Love," which features a Utah polygamist
with three wives, romantic multitasking is
getting viewed with a fresh new eye. Honestly, I
think a lot of people are in polyamorous
relationships. It's just that one member of the
group doesn't know about it yet -- they're
I mentioned this theory to Janet Kira Lessin,
president and CEO of the World Polyamory
Association, and she thinks it's just about
right. "Our society suffers from pluralistic
ignorance. We're doing one thing while
professing another," she says."Polyamory is just
another offshoot of people who are sick and
tired of having to lie."
Janet and her husband, Sasha, a
psychotherapist, both do relationship and
polyamory counseling and teach tantra in Maui.
Married since 1997, Janet says, "[Sasha] and I
are primaries," meaning they have priority among
whoever else they bring into the relationship.
"We dated this other couple for four years and
that was just incredible," she says. The other
pair had to leave Maui for reasons not related
to the relationship. "It was like breaking up,"
Janet says, a little wistful at the thought. But
life goes on. "We have another single fellow
that we're starting to date right now."
I've never tried polyamory myself, but have
always been curious about it for lots of
reasons. Maybe it's because I'm an American, and
I think more is better. Second, I've far too
often been plagued by this quandary: Do I date
the one who is safe, comfortable and good? Or
the one who's so hot my jeans catch fire?
Polyamory seems like it would eliminate that
I'm not entirely joking. Are people really
like dinner courses at Joan Crawford's house:
You can't have the next one until you're totally
finished with the first?
"People in monogamous relationships are
sometimes afraid to share their thoughts," Janet
says. Been there. But if we tried, would the
world really end? Or could we come to terms with
other attractions and affections so they woudn't
have to mean the end of a good thing, the
foregoing of an also-good thing or a potential
Never having tried polyamory, I don't know if
I could handle it or not. "You [need] to have a
willingness to look at jealousy and see what it
really is," says Janet, who was in two
traditional marriages (the first ended in abuse)
before trying polyamory in 1991. "Are you
feeling envy? Are you feeling abandoned? What is
jealousy for you?"
"Yes, I have experienced being jealous in
this lifestyle," she says, but she has a
community where she can talk about it. Another
thing about polyamory is that typical
relationship processes are accelerated. "If you
have baggage, you're going to have it shown to
you by more than one person," she says. You "get
busted on your shit" more quickly.
I admire Janet's guts for trying it. At the
moment, for me to worry about handling multiple
partners would be like practicing my Oscar
speech because I got on the 7-11 store cam.
Since I don't have one steady partner, wondering
about two seems a little premature.
But it's an interesting thought -- especially
now, when traditional marriage seems to be going
through a bit of an identity crisis. You have
gay couples wanting to get married, and you know
they're going to do it better than straight
people (please see couture, design, dinner
parties, manners and every other civilizing
element of society).
Then there's the divorce rate -- which,
according to Erika Lawrence, director of the UI
Center for Marital and Family Studies, "has
remained stable at 40 percent over the last 10
to 15 years" for first marriages, while it
"hovers around 66 percent" for second and third
timers. If cars didn't work 40 percent to 66
percent of the time, people would start
hang-gliding to work.
So it seem less surprising that people might
be looking for a new way to couple (or triple or
quadruple). I don't know if America is ready for
polyamory, but as Janet points out, people used
to smoke everywhere, and now nobody does.
There's lag time for things to change, but
change they do.
And she seems pretty happy. "I did something
right in my life to come to this place," she
says. "My life has been magical."
Langley is a freelance writer in Orlando,